Tag Archives: suppliers

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary on a Japanese sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, that is full of great quotes for those interested in continual improvement. Throughout the film people discuss a never ending focus on doing better and better – never becoming complacent.

Quotes from Jiro Dreams of Sushi:

Jiro: “Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with what you do… You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That is the secret of success and the key to being regarded honorably.”

Jiro: “There is always room for improvement.”

Jiro: “I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit.”

Jiro: “I feel ecstasy every day. I love making sushi.”

Fish seller: “When you think you know it all, you then realize you are just fooling yourself.”

Food critic ~ “when you work for Jiro he teaches you for free. But you have to endure years of training.

”‹Apprentice: “But there is only so much you can learn from words. I have to keep practicing.””‹

Jiro: ~ (paraphrased and changed a bit) “When the fish gets to me the sushi is 95% complete. I prepare it in front of the customer so get the credit but the truth is the person doing the least work gets most of the credit”

Jiro’s eldest son, Yoshikazu: “Always strive to elevate your craft.”

The focus is on the dining experience in total. The meal is composed of elements that are designed to work together with the focus on quality of the individual dishes but also on the interaction between the individual items and the complete experience.

The respect for suppliers is also seen in the film. Jiro’s eldest son says (approximately) “we are experts at sushi and we know a great deal but the tuna vendor we use knows more about tuna, the shrimp vendor knows more about shrimp… we trust them.” Later Jiro says (again from my memory), “we buy our rice from our vendor because Mr. ___ (I can’t remember the name) knows more about rice than anyone else, I trust him to provide what is best for us.”

They even touch on the bigger picture. Jiro’s son: “overfishing is the problem. Finding good fish is getting harder and harder… There should be regulations enforced on only catching bigger fish. Business should balance profit with preserving natural resources.”

As with any example there are particulars that you can learn from and specifics that don’t apply well to your situation. I know next to nothing about kitchens of world class restaurants but what I do know is they seem extremely dedicated to their work (much more so than many other organizations are interested in striving for). They also seem to be more autocratic than most other modern organizations. They also seem much more focused on perfecting the process to achieve the best result even if that requires a great deal more work than some alternative that produces very good results.

Related: You’ve Got to Find What You Love (Steve Jobs Stanford address)Respect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in WorkPositivity and Joy in WorkThe Customer is the Purpose of Our Work

Corporations Do Not Exist Solely to Maximize the Bottom Line

Do corporations exist solely to maximize their bottom lines? We don’t think so., Forbes Magazine:

When Bill Gates suggested recently that corporations should sacrifice profits to the public welfare, practicing what he called “creative capitalism,” he wasn’t the first robber baron with the idea. Henry Ford made a similar proposal in 1916, but he was defeated in court by shareholders who preferred he simply issue dividends. The countervailing view, famously expounded by Milton Friedman, is that the only responsibility of business is to increase profits.

Customers are also demanding products that show a commitment to the public welfare. About 10% of new product introductions are environmentally sensitive–green lightbulbs and cars, for example.

Starbucks pays Ethiopian coffee farmers a 75% premium over market prices, believing this is better than passing out the equivalent in welfare. Pfizer is spending $570 million to develop and deliver treatment in the Third World for fungal infections caused by AIDS. This outlay won’t be recovered in product sales.

They don’t mention the importance of other stakeholder (employees, customers, suppliers – other than the Starbucks example) but still it is nice to read some support for the principles Deming supported: the corporation seeking to benefit all stakeholders.

Related: Curious Cat management search engineDeming on ManagementFocus on Customers and Employees

Toyota Supplier Relations

Toyota’s relationship with vendors is an important link in its success [link broken, so it was removed] by John Torinus, CEO of Serigraph:

One of the big differentiators between how the Big Three operate and how the vaunted Toyota production system works is how they deal with suppliers. Toyota takes the stance that it competes supply chain against supply chain, so it works hand-in-hand with vendors. It’s not just what happens in its body and assembly plants.

Taiichi Ohno, the production guru at Toyota, put it this way: “Achievement of business performance by the parent company through bullying suppliers is totally alien to the spirit of the Toyota production system.”

Reducing Waste

Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd – achieving zero waste to landfill [the broken link was removed]

Toyota developed its Environmental Management System to stay on top of its environmental objectives and ensure that all processes are dealt with in an environmentally friendly way and are implemented across all the plants. There are full key performance indicator reporting systems, visual controls and displays throughout the plant.

A great improvement strategy. Determine what you are trying to do. Understand the system. Set up process measures that measure that system. Improve the system and track the results. Repeat. Maintain focus over the long term. Result: success.

Three keys highlighted in the article:

1. Suggestion of continuous improvement ideas by all employees – Kaizen
2. Attendance of the managing director to “see for himself” – Genchi Genbutsu
3. Adoption of the best ideas in our standard processes – Yokoten

The reduction of waste met Toyota’s environmental goals – what it sees as its obligation to society – and the elimination of waste financially benefits Toyota.

Supplier Development Article

Supplier development in a lean age [the broken link was removed] by Rich Weissman

“We need to keep in mind why we are doing supplier development and relationship management, and profit needs to be the focus of our efforts. Profitable suppliers will tend to be happier suppliers, and happier suppliers will ultimately perform better.”

I get the impression from this and many other articles that people are scared to talk about any other aims than profit. Deming didn’t have such a problem. Toyota doesn’t have such a problem. Google doesn’t have such a problem [the broken link was removed].

Others need to learn that there are multiple aims for organizations not just profits but providing good jobs, serving customers, aiding community… Learn from the leaders – talking as though the only purpose of the organization is to make profit is counterproductive.

Supplier development is one of those areas that really seems to cause problems for those that try to adopt some management improvement ideas without understanding the system within which those ideas function. Without an deep understanding of long term thinking it is very difficult to truly partner with suppliers.

Ford and Managing the Supplier Relationship

Topic: Management Improvement

There have a been a number of articles (Ford to slash vendors of key parts [the broken link was removed] – Ford Rethinks Supply Strategy and posts (A “Kinder and Gentler” Lean Supply Base? – Ford Adopts Toyota-style Supplier Strategy [the broken link was removed]) about supplier management, many springing from Ford’s announcement [the broken link was removed].

My first thought on reading the stories about the press release was, didn’t Ford already say they were going to do this in the 1980’s or 1990’s?

John Weiser, Spring 1997 Executive-in-Residence, Graduate School of Management:

When Ford Motor Company embraced the Deming initiative, Ford’s president told his suppliers:

“We are in the process of making a major change when it comes to dealing with our supplying companies. My goal is that this will become a truly partnership effort, rather than the type of arm’s length relationship that has all too often been the way we have worked in the past.”

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Purpose of an Organization

W. Edwards Deming described the purpose of an organization in New Economics, on page 51, as:

The aim proposed here for any organization is for everybody to gain – stockholders, employees, suppliers, customers, community, the environment – over the long term.

Like so much of what Deming said that makes sense to me. It is my sense the “conventional wisdom” would state something more along the lines of the purpose of a company is to make money. I do not agree. Rewarding the owners is important, but other stakeholders should be included in the purpose.

Even with a strictly legal argument it is not true that a company exists only to make money. The company enters into legal obligations to employees, suppliers, customers and communities.

Conventional wisdom agrees that a company must comply with the law. Many of those laws are requirements society has put in place to ensure that companies focus on obligations to their customers, community, suppliers and the environment (over the long term).
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